National Security & Defense

Arming the Right Allies

Kurdish fighter outside Bashiqa, Iraq, August 2014. (Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty)

President Obama announced he will send 450 ground troops to “train” Iraqi forces, but haven’t we already spent $25 billion in taxpayer money on a new Iraqi military? 

After over a decade of war in Iraq, we do know this: The Kurds are willing to fight, and are one of our strongest and most consistent allies in the region. 

Sending two additional company-sized units into a quagmire is unlikely to impart to Iraqi forces the will to fight once and for all.  

There is another way to defeat ISIS without a large-scale deployment of American forces in Iraq. I agree that we need boots on the ground to combat ISIS — local boots. We should support our consistent ally, the Kurdish forces on the ground who are actively taking the fight to ISIS.  

That’s why this week I voted for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow direct funding to the Kurdish Peshmerga battling ISIS. Such funding would rush weapons to our critical Kurdish partners on the front lines who have been slow to receive necessary reinforcements from the government in Baghdad.

RELATED: Recognize Kurdistan and Arm It, against ISIS in Northern Iraq

The Obama administration has little success to showcase despite spending over $2 billion dollars to wage war against ISIS – that’s an average of $9.1 million a day. A year into fighting, ISIS recruitment is growing, with estimates of up to 31,500 foreign recruits to date. Mosul still hasn’t been recaptured.

The Obama administration has little success to showcase despite spending over $2 billion dollars to wage war against ISIS – that’s an average of $9.1 million a day.

Kurdish forces are fighting a desperate struggle daily with minimal physical and financial help from Baghdad. They watch ISIS gain strength — and weapons — with the fall of Ramadi, and the Kurds are worried. Though the Peshmerga might be the toughest fighters in Iraq, they are waging war with far less resources than the Iraqi army, the Shiite militias, or ISIS.

“ISIS has very advanced weapons that it received from Iraqi army stores. If we do not receive help from our international partners, we may not be able to confront it,” a Peshmerga commander on the front lines told the Wall Street Journal. “ISIS is like a virus. It’s better to eliminate it today than let it grow tomorrow. We’d like to see our coalition partners pull up their sleeves and get serious.”

I have always said that national defense is the number one responsibility of the government in its contract to protect the people. Clearly, the leadership in Baghdad is failing in this contract.

RELATED: Holding Down the Fort in Kurdistan: Peshmerga Play Defense Against ISIS

Tactics, however, are not enough to achieve an end game. Obama admitted that he has no strategy for fighting ISIS. And if there’s any semblance of strategy, it’s been to blindly trust in the resolve of the Iraqi military — naiveté that has been utterly disproven time and time again on the battlefield.

#related#U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter put the loss of Ramadi in more blunt terms: “What apparently happened was that Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight.”

Obama should execute a strategy reflecting what he himself said just this month: if the Iraqis “are not willing to fight for the security of their country, we cannot do that for them.”  

But we can help those who are ready, willing, and able to fight for their homes.

Let’s provide direct military assistance to the Kurds now.

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